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DHL truck platooning trial to begin this year

DHL is leading a UK government-funded trial of truck platooning, a technology which increases efficiency by allowing vehicles to automatically move in convoy using connectivity.

Called HelmUK, the £8.1 million project will see the delivery giant using three commercial vehicles from DAF and using a guidance system from Fusion Processing.

The first phase of the trial will begin later this year, after evaluation of driving simulations, driver training and test track trials over the coming months.

The Department for Transport is funding the trial, with other partners including TRL, Catapult, Millbrook, TNO, Ricardo, Costain and Apollo Vehicle Safety.

The technology allows a lead truck driver to guide a train of unmanned follower trucks, with IRU, the global industry association for road transport, saying this can help tackle the driver shortage. The close proximity of the trucks also improves aerodynamics by reducing wind resistance, thereby reducing fuel.

Amazon is reportedly working with Embark to introduce truck platooning in the US. However, truck manufacturer Daimler announced in January that it was resassessing the benefits of platooning and directing money to other forms of automation.

“Results show that fuel savings, even in perfect platooning conditions, are less than expected and that those savings are further diminished when the platoon gets disconnected and the trucks must accelerate to reconnect,” the company said in a statement. “At least for U.S. long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks.”

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